The Art of "Quotemanship" and "Misquotemanship"

Quoting people accurately is really hard — and you can quote me on that.

The Intentional Misquote, sometimes buried in a journalist’s HANDBAG of tricks


There’s a sometimes-effective tool that journalists use that I can only call “the intentional misquote.” There’s nothing nefarious about it. Rather, it’s a literary device of sorts that allows a journalist to make a clever turn on a familiar phrase. Or, on a lower level, it’s a quick and easy way to try to convince a reader that a journalist might actually be familiar with a passage from a book or a poem or a speech or a plaque or a Hallmark card. Preliminary indications lead me to believe that there’s something distinctly British about this, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.
The humorous Petronella Wyatt used “the intentional misquote” in a very funny piece about handbags in today’s editions of London’s The Mail (“What’s in your bag, Ma’am, Apart from the chocolate, the plasters and the gin…”)
Here’s how she began it:

For men, a handbag is a thing apart, for women ’tis their whole existence, to misquote Byron and to echo the sentiments of Judge Zoe Smith, who told a handbag thief at Reading Crown Court last Week that stealing a woman’s bag ‘is not just inconvenience, it causes fear as well….

In that opening line, Wyatt mentioned Lord Byron, whom I have included here, in Albanian dress–a totally irrevelant homage to the recent Expendables 2 movie).
Wyatt doesn’t mention the source, which is Byron’s lengthy Don Juan. The passage to which she refers is from Stanza 194 of Canto I:

Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart,
‘Tis woman’s whole existence.

Wyatt, therefore, has replaced “man’s love” with “the handbag”–a suitable switch given the satiric nature of the original verse. I didn’t mind scurrying to Google to figure out more about the quotation, but a mention of the original poem might have been appropriate. I might be the only one in this position, but I don’t have Lord Byron, for example, at either my beck or my call. Then again, English readers have a lot more grounding in poetry than I. It might simply be my problem.
If so, thanks for the assist from Google and Bing and the rest of the search-engineers.

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